Our theme for this month: “Life on this side of the cross”
Our Bible verse for today: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Help them to be good rather than to just feel good.”
In the sermon at Oak Hill Baptist Church this past Sunday (www.oakhillbaptist.net), as we continued our study of the Gospel of Matthew, we were considering some of what are called the “hard” teachings of Jesus. Hard teachings are different from easy teachings. In the Gospel accounts Jesus spoke many words of comfort and peace and of good things to come. Those are the “easy” teachings. They are lessons we like to hear and are eager to accept, and therefore preachers and Bible teachers are happy to teach those passages.
In fact, many contemporary preachers and teachers focus exclusively on those easy lessons, precisely because people like to hear them. I call that kind of ministry “cotton-candy Christianity” because like cotton-candy, it is light and fluffy and sweet to the taste, but it lacks substance, it has no nutritional value, and it isn’t good for you. Also, the cotton-candy gospel gives Christians an incomplete understanding of what the Christian life is really like. It leaves out a large segment of the instructions Jesus gave to His followers, which fall in the category of “hard” teachings. They’re hard, and therefore not easy to listen to, but they are vital for our spiritual health and for successful Christian living.
In the Great Commission, cited above in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus told us to go out into the world and to make disciples. He didn’t tell us to just make converts. He told us to do the hard work of helping people to grow and to become spiritually mature. We are to teach them how to live successfully as His followers in this broken and bleeding and sin-filled world.
Coming to faith in Christ is a wonderful experience. It often results in feelings of relief and freedom, of hope and joy. Beyond that, as we begin to experience the manifold blessings of God, it all leaves us feeling very good. But more than just helping people to feel good we have to help them to actually be good. That’s where the discipleship part comes in. This is where the long-term transformation occurs. It’s in discipleship that bad habits fall away and new good habits begin. It’s in discipleship that the virtues of a solid Christian character are developed and manifest themselves in good behaviors. Salvation is important, but it’s just the starting place of the Christian life. From that point on it’s all about discipleship. And that’s where the hard work takes place.
I encourage you to help people to be good rather than just to feel good. Help them to become committed disciples of Christ. That’s primarily what the Great Commission is really all about.